Open Campus: College on Death Row: ‘Y’all Aren’t Here to Be Rehabilitated’

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This news article from Open Campus is a guest essay written by Lyle C. May, a prison journalist in North Carolina. In the essay, Mr. May writes about how gaining access to education on death row gave him the tools to fight back against policies that restricted that access.




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People should DEFINITELY read this article! A few excerpts as food for thought:

  • On death row, the value of that offer was exponentially greater because it acknowledged my humanity and potential to overcome the odds.
  • Learning in prison is the most difficult thing I have ever done.... It took nearly nine years because correspondence courses are much slower than online or in-person classes, but in 2013 I earned an associates in arts degree through Ohio University.
  • In 2021, a unit sergeant told me and another incarcerated student on death row the prison education coordinator had terminated our access to correspondence courses. It didn’t matter that they were privately funded or we had caused no trouble. The only explanation came from the sergeant, who rather gleefully announced: “Y’all ain’t here to be rehabilitated.”
  • Prison helps no one, but higher education empowers those who are marginalized and oppressed. There will always be haters who tell you it’s impossible, naysayers who say you don’t deserve the “privilege,” and people who would rather put a boot on your neck than offer a hand up. But there are also people like Father Dan, who recognize the human potential left to rot in prison. By extending me the mercy of an education, he invested in that potential.
  • Having a higher education is the ultimate act of resistance, one that establishes you are more than a number or label, you are someone who meets the opposition and is victorious.